The theatre, which opened on 10 September 1892 with Wedding Eve, was built for Frank Wyatt and his wife, Violet Melnotte. Initially called the Trafalgar Square, the name was shortened to Trafalgar in 1894 and the following year became the Duke of York's to honour the future King George V.
On 10th September 1982, the then called Trafalgar Square Theatre, opened with The Wedding Eve, a production that’s original programme is framed and features inside the venue. After a shortening of name to the Trafalgar Theatre, it eventually became the Duke of York’s Theatre in 1895 to honour the future King George V who agreed stating, “it is a right royal building with a theatrical tradition fit for a King.” During visits royalty would relax in The Royal Retiring Room, a private area just off of the auditorium which still exists and is now the exclusive Ambassador Lounge.
The first real success came in 1896 with, The Gay Parisian, running for 369 performances. Under the management of American producer, Charles Frohman, in 1900 Miss Hobbs was staged on the same bill as a one act play by David Belasco. It was entitled Madame Butterfly and, by chance was seen by Puccini who later turned it into the famous opera.
Frohman formed a relationship with playwright J. M. Barrie and they triumphed with Peter Pan, first performed in 1904 and revived every Christmas until 1915. The venue is proud to offer the J. M. Barrie Bar decorated in honour of this historical production.
The theatre has welcomed many well-known talents including a 14-year-old Charlie Chaplin who made his debut as Billy in Sherlock Holmes in 1905, Al Pacino in American Buffalo, Richard Briers for his West-End debut in Gilt and Gingerbread and more recently Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King, to name a few.